Post #100 – Women’s Memoirs, Book & Video Raves – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
The Art of Dance and Storytelling
by Lanie Tankard
“To me, the body says what words cannot.”
Storytelling takes many forms, and dance is one of them. Social worker Sheila K. Collins is a dancer who employs rhythmic body movements to express emotions. In her new memoir, Warrior Mother: A Memoir of Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and Rituals That Heal, she describes the feelings she danced out of her body, the predominant one being intense sorrow.
The memoir focuses on the loss of two of her three adult children—a son to AIDS and a daughter to breast cancer. In addition, Collins tells about the murder of her brother, the death of her best friend (also from breast cancer), the breakup of her first marriage, and difficulties in mothering her three children. The sorrow is relieved by her discussion of many joys, especially her four grandchildren.
Collins lays bare her desperate quest for cures through alternative treatments when diseases “surpassed the proven expertise of Western scientific medicine.” She became a “warrior mother,” traveling to faith healers, a Native American sweat lodge, shamans, and a “Miracle Man of Brazil” called John of God who performed psychic surgery. She also supported her loved ones through their hospitalizations, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and deaths.
Collins describes religious differences, coming to terms with her son’s homosexuality, the dying process, hospice, and helping her grandchildren through these experiences. She offers in her memoir, as its subtitle promises, the rituals that she found to be healing during such times. The one rite she found most consistently restorative was dance.
Sheila Collins used her dance knowledge to propel herself twice through tragic loss and then shared her tale through this competently written yet complex memoir.
About Lanie Tankard
Lanie Tankard is a freelance writer and editor in Austin, Texas. A member of the National Book Critics Circle and former production editor of Contemporary Psychology: A Journal of Reviews, she has also been an editorial writer for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.